Still sunny but frankly just a touch chilly today so I’m glad of the long sleeves. And I’m missing my other half who’s been away for a couple of days. The guest photographers, Don and Phil, who have been very accommodating, frankly haven’t had the confidence/sheer nerve of my lovely husband when it comes to saying things like ‘Pull your tummy in for heaven’s sake. You look pregnant’ or that kind of thing. Anyway, he’s home now, so we’ll be back to the usual standard tomorrow!
Today I am wearing:
Bra – Made by me from Fairtrade certified cotton fabric (see ‘And so it begins’ post).
Pants – Fairly Floral from ‘Life’s not Fair but my Knickers are.’ As ever, you can buy them here. The last few times I’ve checked on the actual ‘Life’s not Fair but my Knickers are‘ home page, there has been an ad saying ‘Everything in stock now reduced.’ I’m hopeful that this means they will shortly be launching some new stuff!
Dress – People Tree Black zip dress from a previous season. Freakily, when searching for this one online, I found it on E-bay – size 12 and new for only £5! Once again, the producers have already been paid their Fairtrade premiums etc etc so it would still be a purchase you could feel good about!
Leggings – People Tree. They have several styles here.
Socks – Well it seems I was wrong yesterday about the number of pairs of fair trade socks I had washed, so no socks today!
Necklace – Tagua necklace as yesterday. I’d forgotten how much I love it and had to wear it again today. There’s a similar one available from Traidcraft here, but there’s only one left and it’s in the sale reduced to £10 so be quick if you’re interested!
I’ve also been wearing my trench coat with this outfit today (see day 2 post). I do love that coat…
There’s no ‘make’ today. Strictly speaking there has been lots of making, but nothing actually finished, so nothing to photograph. I’ll try to rectify that with 2 on one day before the end of the week!
I did want to say a bit about the cotton trade today though. Yesterday I was able to give some examples of fair trade really working in practice to lift poor producers out of poverty, but I haven’t really outlined the particular problems that make cotton such a rotten business to be in for so many of the world’s poor.
There are 5 shocking cotton facts that continue to make me cringe each time I think about them:
1. If the USA stopped paying illegal subsidies to its cotton farmers, approximately 1,000,000 people would be lifted out of food poverty
The World Trade Organisation has twice ruled against the US for paying illegal cotton subsidies to its farmers. These subsidies distort the world market price, reducing the income poor farmers can get for their cotton. Frequently, this means that farmers in the developing world, who can produce cotton very cheaply, are unable even to cover the input costs of their cotton crop. Negotiations between Brazil, who brought the action against the USA, the WTO and the US government are ongoing, but thus far have resulted only in large compensation payments to Brazil’s cotton industry. These have absolutely no beneficial effect on the poorest cotton farmers in West Africa and India, who have not the resources to pursue the issue with the WTO.
2. Indian cotton farmers commit suicide at the rate of 3 per day
Unable to make a living from their land they feel they have no alternative.
Actually the suicide rate had gone up from this the last time I checked, to 3 a day in just one state, but I haven’t the heart to update this statistic today. Playing an as-yet-poorly-understood role in the particular issues at play in India is the GM cotton seed known as Bt cotton. Whether it’s because the additional costs of growing it outweigh the benefits of increased yield, or because there seems to be a great deal of counterfeit seed which costs the same amount but isn’t in fact, resistant to the boll worm like it’s supposed to be. Or because the boll worm has already mutated to take account of this modification. Or because the Bt seed needs a greater volume of water to produce the expected increased yields. Whatever is going on, the result is that cotton farmers who are on the edge of disaster in any given season, whose selling price is adversely affected by market distortions in the world and who have in many cases risked everything on a new seed variant, are finding that they have reached the absolute limit and see no way forward for themselves and their families.
3. Of the 37 nations on the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries list, 8 depend heavily on cotton for export
It is the poorest people in the poorest countries that are affected by the distortions in international trade caused by subsidies.
With an average GDP per capita of $637, and among the least developed countries on earth, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali (known as the Cotton-4 or C-4) rely on cotton more than any other commodity for their export revenues. These four countries can produce cotton more cheaply than anywhere else, but the US (and EU) subsidies distort the market to the extent that much of the suitable land has been taken out of cotton cultivation. This has led to a reduction in exports for these nations, which further reduces government revenues. This leaves them incapable of putting in place the required infrastructure to stimulate a more profitable cotton industry based on the sale of manufactured goods rather than ‘raw’ cotton.
4. Forced child labour is used to harvest approximately half the Uzbekistan cotton crop
Children aged between 10 and 15 work for little or no pay to harvest up to half of the Uzbek cotton crop. Uzbekistan’s cotton industry is centrally controlled, which enables the compulsory closure of schools from September to November and the enforced use of child labour for the cotton harvest. Children who fail to pick their quota face fines, physical punishment or expulsion from school, and their parents may have their utilities or social benefits cut off. Children in rural areas are also compelled to weed the cotton fields in the spring season and so miss a total of 3-4 months of education every school year.
5. Cotton takes up 4% of the world’s agricultural land, but is responsible for 25% of pesticide use
I’ve seen slight variances in this statistic, but all analysts would agree that non-organic cotton production requires disproportionate levels of pesticide use. Aldicarb is commonly used on cotton crops. Just one drop absorbed through the skin would kill an adult. Cotton is primarily grown in developing countries where protective clothing is not standard issue and poisonings are recorded at horrifying levels.
I’ll provide sources of further information for all the above in a post at the end of Fairtrade Fortnight, but thought I should at least give a flavour of the core reasons why the growth of fair trade and transparency in the cotton industry are so important. Enough said.